Hawai‘i’s children choose their favorite book for Nene award

R.E.A.D. for NENE is an interactive enrichment activity designed to promote reading and discussion of literature suitable for grades 4 to 6. Participating students are encouraged to read the books and discuss them with other students and classes from across the state. Books featured are taken from the Suggested Titles for the Nene Award. The Nene Award is given each year in Hawai‘i, and voting for it generally takes place in February or March.

“This is an exciting time filled with reading and sharing, and voting for the best.” The Hawai‘i State Library System writes. “The award began in 1959 when third graders at the University Elementary Lab School decided to create a book award. The Nene Goose, Hawai‘i’s state bird, was chosen for the award’s motif. That year, the children selected The Blue Mountain by Beth Lewis as the first winner of the fledgling Nene Award.”

The guidelines for nominated titles were designed by the children themselves: What is the best book you have read? Would many children enjoy reading this book? Does the book have an interesting story (plot), good writing (style) to help in the enjoyment of the reading and memorable characters (people or animals)? Does the book have something important to say (theme)? Is the author living?

By 1963, the idea had spread to other schools throughout Hawai‘i and the first state-wide Nene Award was presented in 1964 to author Scott O’Dell for Island of the Blue Dolphins. Ever since that time, more children participate each year. Children in public and private schools and in public libraries read and vote. The award is sponsored by the Hawai‘i Library Association’s Children and Youth Section, the Hawai‘i Association of School Librarians, the Hawai‘i State Public Library System, and the Department of Education.

The winning authors have been visiting Hawai‘i since 1994 — Phyllis Naylor, Shiloh, Bruce Coville, My Teacher is an Alien, Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee, Constance Hiser, Ghosts in Fourth Grade, Graham Salisbury, Under the Blood-Red Sun and Barbara Robinson, Best School Year Ever. The authors meet with the children who voted for their books and announce the next year’s Nene Award winner. In 2003, Christopher Paul Curtis entertained the children of Hawai‘i by sharing stories about his 2002 Nene Award winner, Bud Not Buddy.

In addition, March 16 is the deadline to submit entries for the four categories of Nene Award contests: essay, poster, performance, and digital arts. These contests are all centered on last year’s Nene Award winner Eragon by Christopher Paolini. See the Web site for more details.

Submit entries to any public library. Contest winners will be invited to share their work at an awards ceremony in May 2007, when the new Nene Award-winning book will be announced. When details about the awards ceremony are finalized, they will be made available at the Nene Web site.

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